Maluku Travel Information - Morotai

Morotai: Maluku's Northernmost Island

Morotai is the northernmost island in Maluku, just off the northern tip of Halmahera.
It is famous as the important base in WW II, from where Mac Arthur launched has assault against the Japanese to liberate the Philippines.

Unfortunately there is little left to see from this period - the once plentiful war relics (guns and machinery) have now mostly been sold for scrap metal.
Nor is the most accessible and visited southern area of the island of much cultural or natural interest: most locals are Galelarese and Tobelorese as in North Halmahera. with a sprinkling of Sangirese and Butonese migrants, and the forests of the hilly interior have been extensively logged.
Probably the most obvious attractions around here are some fine beaches, especially those on the little islands off Daruba, Morotai's major town.

For those having the time and adventurous spirit to head to the mostly roadless North of Morotai, the island has more to offer though. Up there, there is more exciting scenery with some fine stands of forest, the traditional Galelarese culture seems to have been better preserved than anywhere else, and there are even some "secret" surfing-spots awaiting those who are persistent (or lucky?) enough to first find out about, and then reach them!

Attractions Off the Track Shopping Local Culture Safety Getting There Accommodation Food

Main Attractions

The Tourist Office

The island's capital Daruba now has its own tourist office. There was very very little in the way of printed information when I visited, though they may get their act together in preparation for hosting the annual Sail Indonesia event in 2012 - check! You could also ask them about progress on a planned museum that should showcase Morotai's wartime history.

The Old City

The older part of Daruba may not be much to look at architecturally, but you will see WWII era US "Marston Matting" used as fences everywhere!

A Unique Monument

Another reminder of WWII, this bombshell has been recycled as a monument in a busy intersection.

More Bombshells

Ask around to see more - these ones were awaiting transfer to a new location in the ground of the house of head of the local tourist office!

Rusting Tanks

At least two rusting amphibious tanks remain in the boggy gardens not far from Daruba, though only the first one is easily accessible. To reach the second one, you will need to cross waterlogged ground and area od thick, thorny undergrowth. Now protected with ugly barbed-wire fencing, the two oldies were nontheless decorated with "welcome tourist" graffiti!

Pulau Sumsum

This small island off Daruba is claimed to have served as the headquarters of General Mac Arthur during WW II.
Unfortunately, it has little to show for it - almost all relics of the war are gone now.
The most visible thing left are these rusting landing sites, though the hopeful could also scout around the bush for other small metal scrap.
Otherwise, just think of Sumsum as a fine beach outing - the golden sands here are particularly soft and deep.

Pulau Dodola

Dodola is a gorgeous atoll halfway between Daruba and Halmahera, consisting of a pair of islands connected by a sand bar, and with reefs enclosing a large lagoon behind.
Its coral is only so-so, and the lagoon is used for seaweed farming, but the beauty is there all the same!

Off the Beaten Track

Eastern Morotai

The once remote coastline between Daruba and Berebere has now become more accessible with the opening of a new road. The road is still pretty rough with no regular traffic, but ojeks and trucks can negotiate it.
There are some steepish hills along the way, offering good views.


Berebere was once the "capital" of the whole northern half of Morotai, but is in fact just a large, sleepy village. It is here that some aspects of the Galelarese culture, eg. the denge-denge dance which is no longer practiced elsewhere, are preserved.
Berebere also has some other noteworthy attractions, such as this fine little islet of white-sands and casuariana trees just off the coast, caves, and even surfing!
The surfing is seasonal, supposedly best around December.
There's even a simple penginapan (guest house) here, though I was told surfers usually stay with villagers.
The people are a lot friendlier than around Daruba.

Morotai Jaya

This new district, centred on the cape of Tajung Sopi, is Maluku's very northernmost corner.
The villages here speak their own dialect of Galelarese.
The regional capital is the village of Sopi.
Like Berebere, Sopi is visited by some keen surfers in the right season.
As there's no organized accommodation here, they have to stay with villagers.

The Lighthouse

At the very tip of Tanjung Sopi cape, near the village of Cendana, there is an impressive new lighthouse you can climb.
The views from the top are some of the finest to be had in Maluku!

Western Morotai

The remote and partly still roadless western coast has the island's wildest scenery.
There are still good forests left here.
The only access is by boat from Tobelo on Halmahera, allowing some very fine vistas, like the one on this photo, along the way.

Local Culture

Morotaiese Dancers

During the 2007 North Halmahera Cultural Festival, held in Tobelo on Halmahera itself, perhaps the most interesting group of performers came from Berebere in North Morotai.
Even though the festival took place in Tobelo, I find the pictures of the Morotaiese performers worth adding to this page.
Who knows?
You might be lucky enough to happen upon similar performances on Morotai itself...
On this first picture, a group of two boys and a girl are dressed up in traditional finery to perform a cakalele dance.


Here a young men is performing a cakalele war-dance, accompanied by two young women dancers who dance the "sisi".
Morotai's cakalele was one of the best and most authentic in the festival.


While most groups at the festival danced to prerecorded music, the Morotaiese brought their own group of musicians and instruments: drums and gongs.
The men to the right holding a microphone is preparing to sing a traditional song, for performing a now rare art for, denge-denge.

Female Singers

These two girls are also part of the denge-denge group.
In this performance, the male and female singers sing old, traditional love songs in the Galelarese language, kind of answering to each other like in the more well-known and usually more modern "pantun" that is widespread in Central Maluku.
In North Halmahera, this art form is now only said to survive in North Morotai.

The Denge-denge Dancers

The denge-denge dance was quite similar to the more popular tide-tide.
The dancers formed lines facing each other, but unlike in the tide-tide, they kept staying in these lines, with only the male dancers stepping forward one by one to dance towards their female companions. It is a rather slow dance, which may explain why it's been losing popularity with the youth.

Safety and Warnings


I found Daruba the worst place in North Maluku for overcharging.
This was especially the case when trying to charter a small boat to visit the off-shore islands.
Be prepared to haggle!

Getting There and Around

In  2011, NBA took over operating the subsidized flights from Ternate to Morotai, flying 4 times a week.

By Sea

The most common way of getting to Morotai is taking a speedboat, or perhaps the weekly car-ferry, from Tobelo on Halmahera to Daruba. There is also a direct boat from Tenate once or twice a week.
Many parts of North Morotai can only be reached by by boat, either from Daruba or directly from Tobelo.

By Road

There is a limited road network on Morotai, mostly to villages around Daruba, and as far north-east along the coast as Berebere.
There are bemos (minibuses) and/or ojeks available along these routes.
Ojeks can also negotiate tracks between villages elsewhere, like around Sopi in remote Morotai Jaya.



There are now numerous simple losmen in Daruba.
There is another losmen in Berebere.
And that's all!


Basic Selection

There is the usual choice of simple warungs in Daruba, concentrated near the market and port area.

Local Dishes

If you stay in villages, you'll have the chance to sample more typical local dishes.
Most of these will be similar to those elsewhere in North Maluku, but in the Tanjung Sopi area in particular, you may be offered a special delicacy: coconut crab!
These creatures are quite rare, expensive and actually protected in Indonesia, but in the Sopi area they are still reasonably common and eaten by the locals.